Are my toms out of tune or is this just how they sound?

izz

New Member
Hey guys! First time posting here. I tuned my toms recently to about finger tight on all of them. They are DW gunmetal grey toms with DW clear batter and redo heads. They have Evans e-rings on them as well, although the rings don’t perfectly fit the mid and floor toms. They sound kinda twangy and flat to me, and I hear these rich, open, buttery sounding toms in music and online and I’m like, what am I doing wrong? Is this just the sound of these toms? Should I get new heads? Below is a video demonstrating the sound. The video was recorded with AirPods in so the AirPods mic doesn’t sound the greatest but it was recorded in a room with sound panels so it should sound fine.


Thanks for any help you can give!
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Sounds like your bottom heads need to be tightened. Traditionally the bottom head is a little tighter than the top one. This is what eliminates that underlying flap sound, providing the top head is tensioned nice and evenly around the shell.

But at the same time, I’ve always hated those DW batter heads because they seem too thin for my tastes. But I’ve heard those heads tuned well and they sound decent when I’m listening from the audience side.
 

Ronzo

Junior Member
They are most definitely out of tune.
There is an app called iDrumTune that may help you out. At least get you in the ballpark.
Some drummers tune the batter and reso heads different. I like my toms heads tuned the same. Experiment a bit and find what is pleasing to your ear.
 

TK-421

Senior Member
Hey guys! First time posting here. I tuned my toms recently to about finger tight on all of them. They are DW gunmetal grey toms with DW clear batter and redo heads. They have Evans e-rings on them as well, although the rings don’t perfectly fit the mid and floor toms. They sound kinda twangy and flat to me, and I hear these rich, open, buttery sounding toms in music and online and I’m like, what am I doing wrong? Is this just the sound of these toms? Should I get new heads? Below is a video demonstrating the sound. The video was recorded with AirPods in so the AirPods mic doesn’t sound the greatest but it was recorded in a room with sound panels so it should sound fine.


Thanks for any help you can give!
Oh boy, where do I begin? First of all, you’re right to assume your toms sound like crap—because they do. Finger tight is WAY too loose for any drum, so you can consider your toms not at all tuned.

To get them tuned up and sounding good, first you need to get each head in tune with itself. In other words, make sure the tension at each lug is even all the way around. The easiest way to do that is to place the drum on a carpeted floor and tap about 1-2" from each lug. The carpeting completely mutes whichever head is facing down, so you'll only hear the head you're tapping. Furthermore, you'll only hear the higher harmonics, which makes it easier to determine relative pitch between lugs. Keep adjusting little by little until they're all at the same pitch, then do that for each head.

Once your heads are in tune with themselves, it’s easy to tune them up or down by adjusting each tension rod in equally small increments all the way around in a star pattern. Most of the time, I'll tune the top heads at a medium to medium-low tension, then tune the bottom heads about a third higher. For example, if your top head is overall tuned to a C, then a third higher will be three notes up the scale (starting with C), so in this case the bottom head would be an E. That produces a bright, articulate sound. The exact ratio between heads will vary (for example, your floor tom may only have the bottom head 1 note above the top head instead of a third higher). You'll have to experiment for each drum.

It’s definitely a learning process, but hopefully these steps will help. Or you can just buy a TuneBot and let that tell you how to tune, but I think it’s better to know how to do it yourself. Either way, good luck!
 

Tiges

Silver Member
+1 They are way out mate the bottom heads need to go tighter also they sound way to low to me I would ditch those dw heads and get good descent heads for them those stock heads are not the best.
 

ToneT

Silver Member
All heads need to be fine-tuned and brought up in pitch a bit. The second and third toms are growling, suggesting wrinkling in the heads due to uneven tensions.
 

Supergrobi

Technical Supervisor
Staff member

GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
I’m hoping it’s your AirPods as recording device. Take off those Evan’s rings and make a recording with your iPhone and see if improvement. Sounds like your whacking on hat boxes
 

yammyfan

Senior Member
This. 100%.
Thirded. :)

Drums should be tuned much higher than what you hear on recordings and videos. That low rumbly sound can be picked up by microphones inches above the drums but from three feet away? Forget about it.

If you want your drums to be heard at the back of the room, tune them much higher than you think they need to be. That's a start.

Here's a tuning primer. It's basic but a good place to start.


Edit: Supergrobi beat me to it but you can see that we're in agreement about the Rob Brown method.
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
You can tune the top about as low as you want, but the resos need some tension. I agree with comments above regarding tuning too low overall; that low, thuddy sound comes from mixing for the most part.
 

GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
You can tune a piano (and a drum kit) but you can't tuna fish. Just remember that and you'll figure it out. ROFL.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Tighten the bottom heads a little and make sure that the head is in tune with itself and start there. If you play a lot and you are having a hard time tuning and it's been a while since you changed the bottom heads, I'd suggest doing so.
 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
I have to agree with too low. They don’t really differentiate themselves. I did the same thing when I restarted because I don’t like high tunings, but I like drums to sound different and that’s really the only way to get them to do it, as I found out the hard way.
 
One of the funniest and most educational tuning masterclass on the 'Tube...

And the single most helpful tip I was given is: tune in VERY SMALL increments at a time. Like less than 1/8 of a turn at a time for each lug. Make sure they're all the same pitch. Then all the way ariound again. That way you will stumble upon spots of tension wher the head and shell resonate better together.. If you tighten with bigger increments like 1/2 turns, it is real easy to blow right past and miss the tunings where the head complements the natural resonance of the shell.
 
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izz

New Member
Alright! I did some tuning, and I think that they sound overall more full, less growly and nicer. I don’t think they’re perfect, and I also think they do sound better with the e-rings. But it’s a good start if nothing else, and I’m also going to continue researching heads for my toms.

 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
Alright! I did some tuning, and I think that they sound overall more full, less growly and nicer. I don’t think they’re perfect, and I also think they do sound better with the e-rings. But it’s a good start if nothing else, and I’m also going to continue researching heads for my toms.

Ya, much better. If it were me I would take the 13 up to where the 12 is and tune the 12 a bit higher, but that’s just me and my own hangup ;). But much better for sure.
 
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